Land Registry plans to become sole registering authority

October 2014

Land Registry plans to become sole registering authority

The Land Registry plans to become the sole registering authority for local land charges ("local searches") in 2015. The intention is to replace the current system whereby details of such charges are provided by each of the 348 local authorities.

The Land Registry maintains that the new arrangement will lead to a standardised national fee for the first time, thereby ending the large variation in pricing between local authorities. For example, fees can vary between £3 and £95, depending on the individual authority, and turnaround times can also vary between 1 and 41 days. Overall the aim is to provide a quicker, standardised digital service, offering better access to property information and in turn a more streamlined conveyancing service. Preparatory work is to start from April 2015 for a phased migration of the land charge service to start later in the year.

The move is however proving to be controversial. Both the Council of Property Search Organisations ( CoPSO) and the Society of Licensed Conveyancers ( SLC) argue that the idea is a very expensive solution to a problem that doesn't exist, as the current competitive market works well for home buyers, with no pressure to change from property professionals. SLC also argue that any change will lead to disruption in the market during the centralisation process and that the quality assurance function of data applied by local authorities may well be lost.

The Government seem adamant on proceeding, having referenced the necessary legislative changes in the Queen's Speech. The Government would argue that the present initiative is concerned with providing another step in the chain leading to a fully electronic conveyancing process. Critics argue that it is simply a means of increasing the value of the Land Registry prior to an ultimate privatisation.